Eagles Play Wildcats Thursday in First Road Test of Big Sky Season
After splitting with the Montana schools at home, Eastern prepares for back-to-back games on the road, starting with 2-12 Weber State
On the road for the first time in the Big Sky season, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team will take on Weber State Thursday (Jan. 5) at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah.
Eastern will then have a quick turnaround, as it travels 555 miles to Flagstaff, Ariz., for a showdown with Northern Arizona on Saturday (Jan. 7).
Both the Eagles and Wildcats are coming off a loss in conference, as Eastern fell to Montana 53-46 on Monday (Jan. 2) and WSU dropped its Big Sky opener to Sac State, 78-60. But on the season, EWU has certainly tasted victory more often than Weber State, which comes in with a 2-12 record on the year.
The Wildcats were picked eighth - one spot below Eastern - in the 2011-12 Big Sky preseason coaches' poll. Weber State, under direction of first-year head coach Bethann Ord, had a challenging non-conference schedule that included two teams Eastern also played and lost to earlier this year in Boise State and BYU.
Eastern fell on the road to BYU, 77-58, and then lost to Boise State at home, 72-63. Weber State played BSU in Boise and lost by 18 points (86-68), and at home against BYU, the Wildcats had a similar result, losing 84-67.
Out of 336 ranked teams in Division I women's basketball, Weber State ranks 326th in scoring defense and 330th in field goal percentage defense. On the season, WSU has allowed its opponents to score an average of 75.5 points per game on 46 percent shooting, which is last in the Big Sky.
Weber State is however one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the league, averaging 6.4 3-pointers per game. The Wildcats also do a good job defending the three, as it ranks second in the Big Sky and 42nd nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense.
Eastern may be able to take away that advantage though, as it comes in with the second-best season 3-point field goal percentage in the league at 32.9.
After losing 22-straight games in Ogden from 1989-2008, Eastern has won the last three in a row at the Dee Events Center. Eastern has also won three in a row at home for a winning streak of six - the longest active one for EWU against any other Big Sky team.
News & Notes
Coop Sets Career and Single-Game Steals Record - In Eastern's 2011-12 Big Sky Conference opener against Montana State (Dec. 29), senior point guard Chene Cooper broke EWU's 27-year-old career steals record and tied the school's single-game steals record set on six different occasions. Cooper had seven steals against the Bobcats, which improved her career total to 218. She surpassed the previous career record of 212, held by Lisa Comstock, who played from 1982-85. Along with owning the top mark in EWU history, Cooper also appears in the Big Sky record book for all-time career steals, ranking 13th in league history.
Eagles Break 32-Year-Old School Record - As a team, Eastern Washington tallied 22 steals in its Big Sky opener against Montana State (Dec. 29), and in doing so, broke a school record that had stood for 32 years. The previous team single-game steals record of 21 was set on Feb. 10, 1979 when the 1978-79 Eagle squad played Northwest Nazarene. Against the Bobcats on Dec. 29, 2011, eight of 10 players who entered the game had at least one steal, while four players had three or more. Montana State committed 28 total turnovers in the game - the most by an EWU opponent this season.
Coop Puts Up National Numbers - Senior Chene Cooper (Puyallup, Wash.) is among the top five players in the nation in assists. The 5-0 point guard is averaging 7.1 assists per game, which ranks as the fifth-best among all Division I women's basketball players in the country. Cooper leads the Big Sky in that category by more than two complete assists. The next closest player in the league is averaging 5.0. Cooper has the most career assists of any active player in the Big Sky by more than 70, and currently ranks third in the EWU all-time career record book with 423. Cooper's assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4 ranks 18th in the nation.
Ryan on a Roll - Senior Brianne Ryan (Lynden, Wash.) has scored in double figures in all 15 games of the 2011-12 season, which is currently the longest double-digit scoring streak in the Big Sky. She ranks among the top 20 nationally in scoring, averaging 19.2 per game. She owns the top two offensive performances of all players in the league this season, while her overall scoring average is the best by more than two points. Ryan has had seven games with 20+ points and two with 30 or more, including a season-best 31 against Montana State (Dec. 29), in which she converted 12-of-23 attempts from the floor with five 3-pointers. Ryan averages 2.6 3-pointers per game, which is the third-best average in the Big Sky. She converted a career-high of six 3-pointers against Portland (Nov. 29), and hit 5-of-11 against Boise State (Dec. 17) and Montana State (Dec. 29).
Toughest Schedule in the Sky - According to the Collegiate Basketball News Women's RPI Report released Jan. 2, EWU's strength of schedule earned the highest ranking among all BSC schools. The Eagles ranked 25th out of 335 teams. Only one other Big Sky program had a strength of schedule ranking in the top 100, and that was Idaho State at No. 58. Eastern has five opponents on its schedule this year that advanced to national postseason tournaments a year ago. The average RPI ranking of Eastern's 2011-12 opponents is 41.
Ryan Reaches 1,000 - Senior Brianne Ryan (Lynden, Wash.) scored her 1,000th career point against Arizona State on Dec. 2. Ryan is the only active Eagle to have 1,000+ points in her career, and one of only one of four in the Big Sky Conference. The 5-11 guard has now tallied 1,161 points in her tenure, with 288 coming this season. She recently broke into the top 10 all-time scorers list at Eastern Washington, and is only 30 points away from surpassing her mom's career points total of 1,190. Neil Ann Ryan (formerly Massie) played for the Eagles from 1979-82.
Presence in the Paint - Eastern's junior center Carrie Ojeda has become a big time post player for EWU. She is currently the third-leading scorer on the team, averaging 9.5 points per game, but owns the best field goal percentage at 46.2. She is also the leading rebounder on the squad with an average of 6.1 per game. She has set or matched a career-high scoring mark in four different outings this year. She tied her career-high of 19 points in Eastern's Big Sky debut against Montana State (Dec. 29), as she was 7-of-11 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free throw line, including two clutch free throws with less than a minute remaining. She also had 19 points against Eastern Oregon (Dec. 12) on an 8-of-12 effort from the field. She has had two double-doubles on the year, both coming in conference play.
Pakootas Making an Impact - Sophomore Chenise Pakootas had a career outing in Eastern's final non-conference game against Idaho. She scored 14 points and hit a career-high four 3-pointers. Pakootas has appeared in all 15 games for EWU this season, averaging 15.2 minutes per game. She is fourth on the team in scoring and ranks among the top 10 in the Big Sky in terms of 3-point shooters, as she averages 1.4 per game on 40 percent. She hit at least one 3-pointer in the first nine games of the season, and has had two or more in six outings.
Keys to a Win - So far this season, there are two glaring statistics to an Eastern Washington win: field goal percentage and halftime score. The Eagles are 7-1 this year when leading at the half, and 7-1 when they shoot above 40 percent from the field. When EWU has trailed or been tied at halftime, the team is 0-7. And the same goes for shooting percentage. Every time the Eagles convert less than 40 percent of their shots, regardless of what the opponent does, they have lost the game.
Freshmen on the Floor - Eastern has two freshmen this season who are expected to play significant roles in their rookie seasons. Melissa Williams, a 6-1 forward, has earned a spot in Eastern's starting lineup. The Camas, Wash., native leads the team in defensive rebounding, averaging 3.7 per game. She has had four or more total rebounds in nine of 15 games this year, including a career-high nine agaisnt conference foe Montana (Jan. 2). Point guard Kylie Huerta has averaged 8.9 minutes in Eastern's first 15 games of the season, and has tallied 22 assists and six steals. Huerta was an Associated Press 4A All-State Honorable Mention and two-time South Puget Sound League North Division Player of the Year out of Kentwood High School, which is the same school that produced Gonzaga legend and current WNBA star Courtney Vandersloot, as well as Nebraska standout/two-time All-Big 12 honoree, Lindsey Moore. Kentwood is also the alma-mater of EWU men's basketball legend, Rodney Stuckey.
Eagles Impress in Near Upset of Cross-Town Rival Gonzaga - The Eastern Washington University women's basketball was just moments away from pulling off a truly inspiring upset of national power and cross-town rival Gonzaga on Dec. 9 at the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. After completely controlling the first half of the game, the Eagles held on to a one-point lead (69-68) with under a minute remaining. An Eagle rebounding foul sent Naismith Trophy candidate Kayla Standish to the line with 38 ticks left on the clock. The 6-2 forward converted both free throws to give GU a narrow 70-69 edge. On Eastern's next possession, sophomore Chenise Pakootas earned a trip to the line for a chance to tie it up and possibly reclaim the lead, but she missed the front end of her one-and-one, and Standish quickly snatched the rebound. Eastern was forced to put Standish on the line again. She made her first shot, but missed the second to keep the game within a single field goal. But in a fierce battle for the rebound, GU's sophomore guard Haiden Palmer emerged with the ball. She was then fouled, and the mishap occurred when she missed her second free throw, but corralled the offensive board. The Bulldogs went on to make three of their next four shots from the charity stripe to extend their lead to six with nine seconds left to play. Eastern tried to keep the game alive with a desperation three, but the shot was off the mark and Gonzaga came down with the rebound as time expired. Despite being the better team for much of the night, the Eagles returned to Cheney with a heartbreaking 75-69 loss. Gonzaga, the seven-time defending WCC champion, had been in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 Coaches' Poll for the first three weeks of the 2011-12 season.
Coop Claims All-Tournament Honors - Senior point guard Chene Cooper (Puyallup, Wash.) was named to the ASU Classic All-Tournament Team for her efforts in Eastern's two games in Tempe, Ariz., Dec 2-3. In the two games combined, Cooper averaged a combined 12.0 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals. Cooper turned in one of her best performances of the season against Arkansas State, with 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 from the line. She also had four assists and three steals.
Eastern Celebrates Big Win in the Rose City - On Nov. 29, Eastern Washington defeated non-conference rival Portland, 76-60, for its first road win of the 2011-12 season. The Eagles shot a season-high 47.5 percent from the field, while knocking down a season-high nine 3-pointers. Eastern held a 36-32 advantage on the glass and forced 20 turnovers, which they converted into 27 points on the other end. To make this victory any sweeter, prior to facing Eastern, Portland had won back-to-back games against two other Big Sky schools in Portland State and Montana, which were the teams picked one and two in this year's Big Sky Preseason Coaches' Poll. Eastern Washington was selected seventh. Although it was not a head-to-head battle against its conference foes, EWU showed it can certainly measure up with the top dogs in the Big Sky.
Ryan Lays Claim to Big Sky POW - For the first time in her already decorated career, senior Brianne Ryan (Lynden, Wash.) was selected as the Big Sky Player of the Week for games played Nov. 14 - Nov. 20. Ryan had a remarkable performance on both ends of the floor to lead Eastern to a 68-57 victory over San Diego (Nov. 17). Her all-around effort was highlighted by 30 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the floor. She scored nearly half Eastern's total points in the game to become the first player in the Big Sky this season to reach the 30-point scoring mark. Ryan's effort against USD was just three points shy of her career-high of 33, which she set last year versus Sacramento State on 14-of-18 shooting. In addition putting points on the score board, Ryan also led all players on the glass with nine rebounds, and had three assists, one steal and one block, while playing a game-high 38 minutes against the Toreros.
One Night, Three Career-Highs - In Eastern's season opener against Corban (Nov. 11), three different Eagles posted career-high scoring numbers - and ironically, those numbers were the same for each player. Junior Carrie Ojeda and sophomores Laura Hughes and Chenise Pakootas all had 12 tallies against the Warriors. Ojeda and Pakootas have since topped that number though. Ojeda's previous career high was 11 points, while Hughes and Pakootas' was 10. And although it wasn't a career-high, it should be noted that senior Brianne Ryan also scored 12 points against Corban
Big Numbers for 2011-12 Campaign - At 17 players deep, the Eastern Washington University women's basketball team begins the 2011-12 season with the biggest roster in head coach Wendy Schuller's 11-year tenure. This roster includes three returning starters from 2010-11, six other returning letterwinners, two returning redshirts, one non-lettering squad member, one transfer and four freshmen.
Building Cred in the Big Sky - The Eagles are coming off their second-straight postseason appearance. In 2010, Eastern earned an automatic bid to the Big Sky Conference semifinals after winning the regular-season title. In last year's Big Sky tourney, Eastern advanced the semis again after a 77-68 victory against Montana State in the quarterfinal round, which actually marked the first postseason win for EWU since the 2004 campaign. Eastern has earned 20 Big Sky Conference wins over the past two years, which is more than the Eagles had in the previous four seasons combined. In 2009-10, EWU captured the school's first-ever Big Sky regular-season title with a 12-4 league record.
Academic Excellence - In the past 10 seasons, Eastern Washington women's basketball players have been honored 81 times on the Big Sky All-Academic list, which is the most for any women's basketball team in the league. The Eagles have also been recognized on the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll for nine of the past 10 seasons. Eastern was among the top five academic teams in the nation in seven of those 10 years, including the 2003-04 campaign, in which the team placed first nationally with a 3.63 cumulative grade point average.
Baby Bonanza - Three of Eastern's four coaches have all had a baby in the last 18 months! Coach Schuller and her husband, Mark, had their third child, Brandon, in June 2010. Assistant coach Alison Hewa had her first child, Hannah, last January, and just a few months after arriving on the EWU campus, assistant coach Steve Lowe welcomed his first child, Harper (born Sept. 25, 2011).